Publication Date: November 30, 2022
A boy. A shadow. A murder.
Pathological liar? Sociopathic killer? Or just a troubled kid seeking attention? These are the questions that haunt an obsessive-compulsive therapist as she undertakes the most challenging case of her career.
Sitting on a couch two feet across from Selena Harris is an ordinary-looking teenager who confessed in a text, inadvertently broadcast to his entire school, to drowning an autistic child left in his care. With no evidence to support Leal Porter’s testimony, authorities have referred him to Selena for counseling.
Challenging her professional distance is the emotional bond she develops with this lonely, isolated boy, whom classmates describe as “that scrawny kid who talks to himself at his locker.” Although Selena believes the alleged victim is the product of her client’s fevered imagination, she harbors one major doubt:
What if she’s wrong?
Selena can relate to Leal’s feeling of isolation, especially as she has returned to her small hometown on the heels of a divorce to take care of her father, who has suffered a debilitating stroke. In Leal’s case, however, he’s a school outcast due to his predisposition to tell tall tales to worm his way out of trouble.
Stepping outside the confines of her office in a quest for clues, Selena is willing to violate her ethical oath in her dogged quest to separate fact from fiction. But nothing in her experience prepares her for the harrowing revelation of the inner demon that lurks beneath the surface of Leal’s confession.
Dr. Selena Harris specializes in therapy for children, but she never expected to encounter Leal Porter.
Author B. Robert Conklin describes Selena’s efforts to wade through all the details of Leal’s troubled ramblings in An End to Etcetera.
Consigned to therapy for a disruption at school, Leal spins a story throughout his sessions that push Selena to the limits of her professional boundaries. Is this 13-year-old boy weaving an imaginative tale about events that unfolded over a summer, or is there a nugget of truth?
While this is very much a slow-burn sort of thriller, it’s not until close to the end that all the details come together for a shocking conclusion.
An End to Etcetera focuses on a therapist’s efforts to peel back all the trappings to find out the root of a troubled teen’s problems—and it’s a doozy!
B. Robert Conklin (he/him/his) lives in Columbus, Ohio, where he enjoys the unpredictable moments of family life with his spouse, three kids, four cats, and two ferrets. His credits include stories in Blue Moon Literary & Art Review, THAT Literary Review, and Kestrel, with another accepted for publication in The Strong Stuff: The Best of Fictional Café, Volume II. With a teaching background in composition and literature, he has also co-authored a college textbook to help emerging writers connect with their world. In a different medium, he practices the craft of cartooning.